Monday, November 15, 2010
Review of BEYOND THE STRAITS by Marine Robert Warden, Presa :S: Press, PO Box 792. Rockford, MI 49341, www.presapress.com, $13.95, November 2010 (reprinted from 1980, Momentum Press)
By Barbara Bialick
Last year I had the good fortune to review Dr. Warden’s previous of ten books, FINDING BEAUTY (Bellowing Ark Press, 2009). He must have agreed, for I found my own review quoted on the back of this current, worthwhile reprint from 1980, BEYOND THE STRAITS. This book takes us from the straits of Seattle to the open seas to Asia, and back to the U.S. with wide lyrical lines in lower case, no punctuation, with subtle hints of Whitman but visiting many more places than did the bard of New York.
As Eric Greinke remarks in the introduction, “The search for (Warden’s) voice was something like ten days.” Certainly this book is just as broadly painted, and experienced in viewpoint as the previous one, possibly because he didn’t become a poet until he was 48 years old, and had already experienced the military, marriage, and the practice of medicine, but with a poet’s vision.
In Kansas, he declared, he sensed how out of a “great ground swell off the coast of Asia” our country could emerge, as his wife emerged to him. In the poem “The Great Ground Swell”, he wanted America to experience “what the land could mean for us…a healing process, a rebirth out of rocks with the blades of grass that bend their endless moan across the prairies…” At the same, this sea man looks beyond that which we daily experience: “the continents are merely rock extrusions of the sea’s bed.”
In “Thanksgiving Day 1946”, he writes “today the rain falls over all our land/it falls on the ships in “Frisco Bay…/it rains into the eyes of our dead at sea…” But the men marching by “still don’t realize/there’s a generation waiting for birth/that expects them to make a new land/out of dreams they hatched across the ocean…”
I’d say Dr. Warden deserves to be noticed along with the more widely known poets of the modern and contemporary periods. I will end by quoting the last poem, “Taking Leave”, which speaks for itself: “animals know nothing of this/the real meaning of flowers or love/beyond the crushed petals that excite their senses/…how the industrial city that was destroyed/became a garden of flowers/how my ship pulled away from that harbor/with its cargo of haunted faces/how we floated outward like slow glass/over a sea of fire”. This book deserves its reprint status, and should be read by people today who are watching our country in distress and need a historical context for hope and action, which seems so hard to come by.